Greatest Drives Latest

  • Around the Coast in 8 Days
    Amazing coast drive using only A & B roads and keeping the sea in view wherever possible all in the target of 8 days. We did this nutty trip to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Association of Great Britain and raised the sum of £4000+...
    by SeanM at April 13th, 2013 at 3:35pm
  • Northumberland National Park
    We drove this route on the way back from Edinburgh en route to York. Northumberland is a relatively hilly national park but this is why the A68 is so much fun. A short while after Jedburgh to the north you cross the summit of a mountain range where the Sc...
    by electrobooks at April 6th, 2013 at 10:12pm
  • Dartmoor National Park
    The B3357/B3212 between Tavistock and Moretonhampstead is a cracking little blast over Dartmoor encompassing some great views, fast sweeping bends over some serious elevation change and an abundance of sheep all in one handy package. This makes for a fas...
    by SilverArrows at January 4th, 2013 at 12:09pm

Car News Latest

  • Insight: Waymo - Google's self-driving division Saturday 21st April 2018
    Waymo
    Waymo-equipped Jag I-Pace
    The head of Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, tells us why car enthusiasts shouldn’t be scared of the future

    The boss of the most powerful self-driving car technology company in the world has a Porsche 911 GT3 on order. And a Caterham in his garage. And two more Porsche 911s nestling alongside that: a 997-series C2 S and a 964-series Targa.

    Easy natured and always the evangelist, John Krafcik – CEO of Waymo, part of Google – breaks into a ready smile as he can see my brain computing that one. “We are not the enemy. Yes, you can have self-driving cars and enthusiasts’ cars,” he says, grinning. “What we’re doing at Waymo does not mean the end of driving.

    If you just want to get somewhere, we hope you’ll use one of our cars. Hail it on the app, get driven there autonomously, hop out.

    Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

    “But people will always want to own cars – and if you’re buying something, we want it to be special.

    I can see how we might disrupt the utilitarian market, because we can likely cover those needs in a cost-effective way, but the beauty for car enthusiasts is that every car that gets sold will have to be more interesting. It’ll have a purpose.”

    Krafcik, 56, and Waymo were thrust further into the spotlight last month when it was announced that the firm had committed to buy up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces, which it will offer to the public to use autonomously from 2020. To look at him, you’d think he’d spent his life in Silicon Valley – there’s the floppy hair, stubbly chin and jeans, for starters – but in fact he spent decades in the car industry, working his way through the ranks (see separate story, right) before answering the call from Google’s founders to head up Waymo in 2016.

    Ask him if the firm ever had plans – as long rumoured – to make cars as well as develop self-driving technology and he’s coy, saying only that “I’m not aware of it”. But when Waymo was launched at the tail end of 2016, those rumours were, for now at least, put firmly to bed.

    “We built our own test car, called Firefly, but that was really because we could take advantage of the so-called ‘golf cart regulations’ that were in place to test our technology,” he says. “Up to 35mph, it could run in neighbourhoods without the need for a steering wheel, and it was our way of logging test miles. But building full cars is best left to the experts. They have their specialisms, we have ours.”  

    Those test miles are now Waymo’s answer to any concerns about the safety of the public testing of self- driving cars. Given a chance, Krafcik will repeat like a mantra the dual facts that the firm has covered five million autonomous test miles on public roads in the US and more than five billion miles in computer simulation. He’ll also state that Waymo’s proprietary lidar and radar systems, developed since 2008, are the best in the world, so much so that the firm plans to become the first to start public trials of autonomous cars without any ‘fail-safe’ humans behind a wheel over a 100-square- mile area of Arizona this year.

    “When we set the company up, we asked ourselves what our role should be, and the answer was to develop the world’s best driver,” he says. “The technology we have today can drive anything from a giant truck to a Prius. If it moves, we can find a way to drive it.” Given that studies suggest autonomous driving technology will be a £5 trillion a year business by the middle of this century, you’d think it was pretty easy to understand Google’s interests in getting involved. Krafcik counter that with a steeliness that suggests there may be a truth to his words: “You might think money was the primary motivation, but it can’t be. The goal is zero fatalities. That’s it. If there’s payback for that social benefit, then great.”

    On the subject of safety, Krafcik feels that the car industry had become complacent. “The word ‘accident’ was actually created to almost explain away what were, in reality, tragedies,” he says. “Everyone knew the facts, but there had become a level of acceptance that people would die because of cars. But 140 deaths an hour – that’s too much.

    “So we embrace the drive for zero fatalities. We want safety and mobility for all. Neither’s easy: the former is more of a goal, while the latter is a big challenge. Just in the US, there are 30 million people today who don’t have access to transport.”

    Waymo, of course, is one of many firms vying for supremacy in the field, including Jaguar Land Rover, which will continue to develop its own systems, but there’s no doubt that the benefit of Google’s brains trust, reputation and war chest has given it a head start. Self-driving may not be a nirvana for many car enthusiasts, but there’s no doubting that in Krafcik its future is being driven forward by one.

    How Krafcik got where he is today:

    His formative years - “My boss [at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc] was a Yoda-like figure: very wise, but he talked in riddles. Early in my career, I was sent to a GM factory. It was impressive, but I did notice some cars being repaired off the line and some people sleeping in cardboard boxes on site. I got back, presented my report, said how impressed I was and so on – and then got sent to a Toyota plant in Japan. It was extraordinarily efficient. My boss had made his point: I recognised the standards to strive for.”

    Why he gave it all up to be an engineer - “I wanted to design cars, so I asked Ford if I could. They offered me the chance to run some plants. I said no, persisted and eventually got a role as a product design engineer. It was the best job I ever had. I learned the product development processes and a respect for how car makers engineer in so much quality and reliability.”

    Why he left Ford - “At that time, it was the greatest collection of clever people who couldn’t work out how to get on. I couldn’t aspire to the next level of management there as I didn’t like how those people treated other people.”

    The route to Waymo - “I joined Hyundai and had a blast. Then at the height of the recession, I was asked to run Hyundai USA. We had some great years and then I joined True Car, a website selling cars. And then the phone rang. It was Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I took the call!”

    Read more 

    Tesla Model S review 

    Tesla Model X review 

    Jaguar deal could encourage Waymo to start autonomous car tests in Britain

  • A drive in the 666bhp Lister Thunder Saturday 21st April 2018
    Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder
    A revived Lister will be producing a run of 99 Thunder
    A riotous exhaust and a brutish bodykit mean the new, Jaguar F-Type R-based Lister Thunder is anything but subtle. We drive it

    We’ve not made it 50 yards when photographer Luc suggests that this is the most feral-sounding thing the sensible side of a Ferrari 812 Superfast.

    He is probably correct too. Lacey isn’t a man prone to hyperbole, which is funny in itself because the car we’re driving trades committedly in the stuff: it’s an inky menace with acid-green highlights, enormous wheels satiating their arches with barely a toothpick’s width to spare and bodywork draped to the asphalt like a studded-leather ballgown. It sounds like a Nascar escapee, for pity’s sake.

    Welcome, then, to the Lister Thunder. While this development car is recognisably F-Type, any vestigial elegance of Jaguar’s coupé is buried beneath a truly gothic disposition. At heart it’s an F-Type R, only with new supercharger pulleys, an upgraded intercooler, improved induction and a tickled ECU that boosts the 542bhp 5.0-litre V8 to 666bhp.

    A 0-60mph time of 3.2sec and a top speed of 208mph put its performance in the realm of supercars. Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox from ZF are carried over from the donor car, while a new exhaust supplied by Quicksilver not only saves 10kg but also delivers the chased-by-a-Spitfire soundtrack through carbonfibre-wrapped tips of a riotous bore. Even the crackles on the overrun don’t relent until you’ve picked up the throttle once again, meaning unrelenting noise of a murderous timbre is omnipresent.

    What the name Lister means to you will almost certainly depend on your age. For a millennial such as your correspondent, it’s the Storm: a 7.0-litre wedge that raced in various GT series in the late 1990s and was homologated with four £450,000 road cars. For Lister CEO Lawrence Whittaker (slightly older), it’s most likely the Le Mans, which was a modified Jaguar XJS whose pulverising 600bhp was exceeded only by the blunt visual trauma of its bodykit.

    For Whittaker’s father, Andrew, with whom Lawrence bought the rights to the Lister name for a six-figure sum in 2013, it’s the legendary Knobbly sports car. And, in fact, the Thunder we’re driving today might never have existed were it not for a Knobbly of questionable provenance and a stash of forgotten parts in Cambridge.

    It was the disappointment of learning that their ‘1958’ Knobbly used a chassis dating from the 1980s and a body from the 2000s that led the Whittakers to George Lister Engineering in Cambridge. The place is genesis for Lister’s original racers and it was here the pair discovered forgotten blueprints and parts and even an original chassis jig.

    Naturally, at this point the mission brief shifted from restoring a solitary Knobbly to purchasing Lister in its entirety and building a run of 10 recreation cars. Wealth acquired from another business – Warrantywise – proved handy in this regard, and with FIA certification for historic racing, even at £250,000 apiece the box-fresh Knobblys promptly sold out.

    Fast-forward just five years and the company is preparing for June deliveries of the car before you here, which represents Lister’s return to the road. Some car it is too. And yet, if the prospect of driving a 666bhpF-Type on damp roads flanked by dry stone walls patiently waiting to tear into that bodywork sounds intimidating, the reality is different.

    The Thunder is spectacularly quick in a straight line, but the supercharged delivery is so superbly linear that you’re never taken unawares by the distance-compressing hops in a way you might be in some similarlyformidable turbocharged rivals.

    Moreover, and as you’d hope to find in an aspiring GT car, the Thunder allows to you establish a rhythm through and between corners. With seemingly bottomless reserves of torque, you’re also permitted to set the tempo as you please. 

    There’s traction too, and in circumstances like these we’re grateful for the driveshafts in the front axle. Without them you’d need to be exceedingly confident in your abilities to use even two-thirds of what this powertrain can deliver.  As it is – and absurdly so, given the numbers involved – you’re encouraged to chase the throttle right from the moment that green- lipsticked nose is turned in and the body settled on its outside springs. A hot-rod? Not exactly, which just goes to show how deceptive appearances can be. If a valve big enough to tame that exhaust note could be found, the Thunder is comfortable enough to make a formidable tourer.

    Certainly the interior is pleasing enough in an old-school manner. The black leather is from Bridge of Weir and broken up by green stitching almost everywhere you look. Jaguar logos on the air vents and steering wheel give the game away, and the digital displays are yet to be reskinned on-brand, but taken as a whole it feels adequately bespoke.

    Acting as a metaphor for the entire car, the faintly aged feel of the architecture and switchgear is countered by a cosseting, focused ambience brought about by a low-slung driving position and a high scuttle. If nothing else, the place is rich in character.

    Push on and it’s apparent this chassis still needs some fine-tuning before the keys are in customers’ hands.Those 21in wheels give the Thunder the stance of something that drove straight off the pages of Ian Callum’s sketchbook but they mean tyre occasionally meets arch-liner with a ‘pzizz’ that cuts through the exhaust blare.

    Despite using KW springs stiffer than those found on an F-Type R (the adaptive dampers remain factory specification), the suspension is still a little slow to mop up road surface corrugations, particularly when loaded up. On these Lancashire roads, it can precipitate a faint skittishness that’s as welcome as cold hotpot, although it never threatens to incurably disrupt the balance of the underlying Jaguar chassis.

    Indeed, one of the Lister’s strengths is that its sheer drivability belies the ludicrousness of the noise and firepower at hand. Snagging that carbonfibre splitter in town is going to be your greatest concern.

    The price is £141,155, which puts the Thunder squarely in the crosshairs of Aston’s V8-engined DB11, while the additional £14,850 for which Lister asks to fit a carbonfibre bonnet brings the new Bentley Continental GT into play.

    Anyone considering buying a Lister would be mad not to sample alternatives of this calibre before putting pen to paper, and yet we’d understand the person for whom the Thunder’s rarity and sheer eccentricity ultimately win out. There is work to be done here, not least with the finer chassis tuning, but encouraging first impressions suggest one of Britain’s best-loved marques is properly back, and with a deafening bang.

    The next chapter: 

    There are all sorts of risks involved in acquiring such a storied marque as Lister, and Lawrence Whittaker – as a young man in the context of his position – must have been relieved when orders totalling £3.1 million rolled in only 24 hours after announcing the Thunder. He and father Andrew had already orchestrated a successful run of continuation examples of the Knobbly, but this was proof there was also a hearty appetite for road cars. Those road-going Listers will be built at a new facility in Milton Keynes. Up to six cars can be worked on concurrently, with a three-month lead-time for the conversion.

    Whittaker’s medium-term ambition is to develop his company into a tuning outfit with intimate links to Jaguar. He cites Alpina’s relationship with BMW as an appealing model that would afford Lister early access to future cars and economise the modification process both in terms of expenditure and time.

    As it stands, a Thunder begins life as a complete F-Type R, with Lister having no use for many of the parts it strips from the donor car. Jaguar – and particularly design director Ian Callum – has given short shrift to third-party tuners in the past, although the company has already been in touch to offer help with sourcing cars for modification. Where this will eventually lead is anybody’s guess, but it’s an encouraging start.

    Once the run of 99 Thunder models is completed, attention will turn to the recently announced F-Pace SVR, for which Lister has already made plans. As much as 670bhp is on the cards, with a larger production run of 250 cars reflecting current market tastes. Don’t be surprised to see a Lister-ised take on the Range Rover Sport, either.

    The grand plan is to sell enough modified Jaguar Land Rover cars to build a bespoke Lister and revive the ‘Storm’ moniker. It would be an expensive project – a figure of £50m passes Whittaker’s lips – taking the form of a hypercar to rival the likes of Pagani and Koenigsegg.

    Annual production would be in single digits, with the asking price running to six. Before all that, however, there are the remaining Thunder build slots to fill.

    Read more 

    Jaguar F-Type R review 

    Jaguar F-Type SVR review 

    Jaguar F-Pace review 

  • The power of Scotland: remembering Jim Clark Saturday 21st April 2018
     Jim Clark
    Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965
    Jim Clark was arguably the top driver during a golden era for Formula 1. To mark 50 years since his passing, we takes a Lotus Evora to Scotland to trace the formative years of the world’s fastest farmer

    There’s an archetypal personality in the Scottish Borders, the verdant wedge of rolling lowland abutting England’s northernmost reaches.

    Innocent of motorways and barely skirted by rail, the region preserves an identity shaped not only by agriculture but also centuries of cross-border conflict. It’s an archetype that’s modest but steely, cautious of strangers and reluctant with an audience but boisterous among friends. I grew up surrounded by it. You’ll find it from Burnmouth to Buccleuch. Nothing unusual, then, about James Clark, Jnr, the young farmer from Chirnside. Except that he was the greatest racing driver in the world.

    Clark was Formula 1 world champion in 1963 and in 1965, when he paused from winning six consecutive grands prix to triumph at Indianapolis. He narrowly missed three more F1 titles, was twice runner-up at the Brickyard and claimed the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship.

    On 7 April 1968, Clark was killed when his Formula 2 Lotus-Cosworth crashed in the woods at Hockenheim. In the subsequent issue of Autocar, the accident’s cause eluded editor Peter Garnier, as it eludes today. Garnier’s eulogy concluded: “Though most of us will see him in memory, garlanded and waving after some great victory, it is perhaps the thought of his less glamorous, simpler background in his native land that endeared him to us all so much.”

    That is why we’re making a pilgrimage to see the places, meet the people and drive the cars that helped shape a champion, when motorsport for Clark was still a local, amateur affair. We’re armed with a Lotus Evora GT410 Sport, the latest machine from the marque that carried Clark to his greatest triumphs, liveried in dark green with yellow calipers in tribute.

    We’ll be guided by my father’s 1965 copy of Clark’s autobiography, At the Wheel – the book that inspired Webber the Elder growing up in Hawick as it did a teenage Steve Cropley kicking up dust in the Australian Outback. Such was the global appeal of this local hero; the man the French christened ‘Superjim’ and the Italians ‘Clarkissimo’.

    Our first call is not Chirnside but Kilmany, the Fife village where Clark was born in 1936 and spent his first six years. There we visit the commemorative statue by local sculptor David Annand. Set on a peaceful lane next to the babbling Motray Water, it shows the distinctive 5ft 7in frame in racing overalls, mid purposeful stride. It’s a beautiful piece and, I’m told, an uncanny likeness.

    A chance meeting with Rob and Susan Whiteford, current owners of the farm at Wester Kilmany, lets us draw the Evora in front of Clark’s sturdy but homely birthplace. (Long before Indy, his first victory milk was taken behind the upper right-hand window, if you’re interested.) Rob’s father acquired the tenancy from the Clarks when they moved south in 1942.

    The Evora’s ‘GT’ prefix points towards a racing-inspired spec, including lightness-adding carbonfibre panels, Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, four-piston AP calipers and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, not to mention the charge-cooled Edelbrock supercharger that helps mine 410bhp from the mid-mounted, Toyota-sourced 3.5-litre V6. But as an ensuing dual-carriageway sprint shows, it can tour too. The ride is slightly animated but far from uncomfortable and the steering settled, while impressive tractability lets us engage sixth and leave it there. Even the dual-mode exhaust becomes unexpectedly civil.

    Which is just as well because an art exam is happening as we simmer between the ochre-walled buildings at Clark’s alma mater, Loretto in Musselburgh. The 191-year-old school has added wings, girls and day pupils since Clark’s time as a boarder between 1949 and 1952, but its courtyard – and the red-blazered, tieless throng milling through it – has changed little. On one side sits the chapel, which houses a plaque marking Clark’s achievements in racing. Ayrton Senna paid homage in 1991.

    “I couldn’t see what use Latin would be for a farmer,” wrote Clark. He frequented the library for other reasons: “I read the three books on motor racing in the school library from cover to cover several times, and remember those special mornings when it was time to collect my weekly motoring magazines.” Today, books about Clark inspire the students.

    A coast-hugging cruise down the A1 leads into the Borders and Chirnside, where there’s a memorial to Clark designed by Ian Scott- Watson, the friend who started Clark in racing and managed him through the early years. We’ll meet him tomorrow. For now, we’ve a short drive to the family farm that Clark left school at 16 to manage.

    Similarly traditional to Wester Kilmany, the house at Edington Mains is larger, and the acreage only a little diminished from when Clark tended crops and livestock here. Current owners Dave and Tanya Runciman relay that a young Clark would jump from his first-floor bedroom onto his father’s truck before tearing off in whatever vehicle he could lay hands on. The first of these illicit forays was in an Austin 7, when he was aged just nine.

    It was from here that Clark and pals pedalled six miles to the disused military airfield at Winfield – briefly a motor-racing Mecca for 50,000 spectators, now just gravel and tall grass – to peek through the hedges at the Ecurie Ecosse team in testing. The spectacle stayed with him.

    Aside from late, fiscally motivated stints in Paris and Bermuda (income tax hit 91.25% in 1967), this remained Clark’s home and it’s where he wrote the book I’m carrying. The house became filled with trophies, although it remained simply furnished, the occasional rogue sofa spring known to keep visitors alert. Such antithesis to the glamour and danger of professional racing weighed heavy on Clark: “There is a constant tug between the sport and attractions of returning to life on the farm, not to mention allaying the constant and understandable anxiety of my parents.”

    We break towards Hawick. On the quiet, narrow, helter-skelter back roads, the Evora comes alive. Sport mode sharpens the throttle and opens the exhaust valve wide, smothering the supercharger’s hum with a full, racy yowl, the engine doing tremendous work between 3750rpm and the 7000rpm redline. The aluminium gearknob shifts neatly, crisp throttle response abets heel-and-toe and the brakes give that delightful, sandpapery racing feel under duress.

    The Evora never feels like grounding out or springing skyward, its suspension and aero relentlessly forcing the lightweight alloy wheels and Cup 2s into the grit-seasoned surface. It’s near freezing, but only the standing water and tractor- dragged mud give cause for pause. Otherwise, both ends are tacked down, the Evora’s nose obedient to the swift and transparent hydraulic steering.

    On this road, a young Clark came face to face with Ecurie Ecosse’s three dark blue Jaguar C-Types, line astern and squirming into a hairpin: “I remember thinking what a shower of madmen they were. But at the same time, I felt a twinge of envy.” We strafe on past Kelso, where years later a typically flat-capped, betweeded Clark attended the ram sale five days after winning the 1963 title.

    Although Clark had earlier runs in rallies, gymkhanas and autocrosses, the opening entry in Scott-Watson’s detailed record of his friend’s achievements is a sprint meeting at Stobs Camp, near Hawick, on 3 June 1956. The 0.8-mile hillside circuit surrounds half of what was once a military training facility turned POW camp. Up to 5000 Germans were detained here in WW1. D-Day preparations took place during WW2. The family of owners Nicky and Sandra Ewart returned it to farming in 1960.

    The now gravelly perimeter road that once traced the barbed wire was still neat tarmac when Clark arrived to compete in the Sunbeam Mk3 passed down by his father. That the almost identical Sunbeam-Talbot 90that Kevan Younger of Coldstream Classic Cars has brought along is now hired for weddings tells you how unsuitable it seems for motorsport – yet a Mk3 won the Monte Carlo Rally the year before, and Clark raced his successfully.

    It almost didn’t happen, though, as Graham Gauld noted in his 1968 biography, Portrait of a Great Driver. Following practice, the stewards “felt sure that if he ran in the event he would have the world’s biggest accident”. Perhaps the narrow, twisty track, cursed with mad cambers and edged by trees and ditches, explains why Clark was the only finisher in class – and therefore the winner. Gauld reported: “His driving was at times heart-stopping, the car clearing the ground completely on the downhill stretch.” Having edged around the crumbling circuit in a 4x4, slithered the Evora up the soundest stretch and then tried Younger’s car – which he barely dares take above 40mph on the road – I can confirm that prospect is frightening.

    With Younger is Bob Smith, who serviced the Sunbeam for Clark (until he wrote it off, that is). The young farmer’s speed was locally infamous by then. Smith tells of Clark giving his terrified shepherd a lift backfrom a livestock sale. “How many sheep did you count?” asked Clark as they pulled into Edington Mains. “Sheep?” said the shepherd. “I could barely count the fields!”

    On to Charterhall, another wartime airfield turned circuit. Clark watched his first race here, in 1952, back when this remote, two-mile track – now desolate save for the resurfaced main straight – attracted international stars. Racers that day included 1950 world champion Giuseppe Farina in the Thin Wall Ferrari, Prince Bira and Stirling Moss.

    The names were glamorous, but the facilities were not: a double- decker for the timekeepers and long- drops for loos. Still, thousands came, and Clark himself soon become a draw. In autumn 1959, he raced Scott-Watson’s Elite here, fresh from 10th place at Le Mans – a remarkable result for a group of holidaymaking farmers who’d collected only a partially prepared car from Lotus mere days before.

    This was the gung-ho Border Reivers team that indoctrinated Clark into serious racing, including third at Le Mans in 1960 in an Aston Martin DBR1. Two years earlier, the team’s Jaguar D-Type had thrown Clark in at the deep end during testing at Charterhall, providing one of the many pushes he needed en route to greatness: “I thought they were daft asking me to drive it. All I did was take it up and down the straight, and it scared me to death.”

    The team was named for the area’s plunderous, mounted gangs of the Middle Ages, and marked by the badge you see on the delicious blue Elite that joins us on that very straight. It belongs to Doug Niven, cousin of Clark and a successful racer himself. Its fizzy little fire-pump-derived Coventry Climax 1.2-litre straight four makes just 72bhp but moves the GRP-bodied Elite along smartly, its exhaust rasping away. There’s a tiny shifter for the ZF four-speed, yet an enormous steering wheel. The suspension is soft, but nimbleness comes from a mere half-tonne kerb weight. Petite, unconventionally engineered and lightweight, it’s pure Colin Chapman.

    We stop by the Jim Clark Museum in Duns, a compact but rich collection of trophies and mementos, from Charterhall’s tiny silver cups to the cache of trophies and trinkets from Indianapolis. The Jim Clark Trust works to maintain Clark’s legacy and recently raised funds to expand the museum to house cars as well as artefacts as of next spring. The trust marked Clark’s passing with a range of local events on 7 and 8 April.

    Then we visit Scott-Watson, who warmly and generously shares stories of ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Mossy’, Chapman and more. He invested huge amounts of faith, encouragement and, indeed, personal funds to get Clark racing. 

    Before leaving the Borders, we call on Eric Bryce, a local lensman who photographed his friend Clark over a decade. By the fire, we pore over countless images, from his first photograph of the Sunbeam at Charterhall to post-win celebrations at the 1967 British Grand Prix, Clark garlanded as Garnier described.

    “That was the final picture I took of Jimmy,” says Bryce, thoughtfully. “It was the last negative on the roll of film.”

    Our final leg leads west of Edinburgh to the only one of our three Clark venues still hosting competition. Created in 1932, Bo’ness Hill Climb was Scotland’s first purpose-built track and nowadays hosts the Bo’ness Revival – a classic car show combined with historic motorsport each September. At 0.35 miles, the course is shorter than before but retains its charming feel, climbing among thick woodland and then snaking through a pretty courtyard. It’s a delightful place to enjoy old cars.

    Clark competed in three Border Reivers cars here in 1959, including the highly successful white Porsche 356A 1600S he’d recently bought from Scott-Watson for both racing and daily driving. We’re lucky to be joined by Simon Whittley and his 356, identical in all but colour. From within that bulbous yet graceful form, its perky, responsive, rear-mounted four-pot boxer warbles beautifully. Its steering is keen, its gearshift long but silky, and the brakes work too. I can see how the 356 helped Clark earn his stripes.

    Within a year, Clark was racing for Lotus in F1. A 1961 entry at Charterhall was his final race in Scotland, and for the Border Reivers. But in his introduction for At the Wheel, Clark’s next patron, Chapman, recognised the “trait of Scottish character” that helped Clark become a champion, calling it “a certain dourness and a very strong determination to succeed”. Chapman went on: “There are other racing drivers who have to generally attract attention to themselves to make up for lack of ability; but Jimmy has not had to do any of that, and if he left racing tomorrow, he would leave it with an example which others would find hard to follow.”

    I think that’s just as true 50 years after the fact.

    Q&A - Ian Scott -Watson:

    We chat with the man who set Jim Clark on the path to world domination.

    What made Clark different from modern Formula 1 champions?

    “Firstly, the ever-present risk of death: Sid Watkins’ successful measures to minimise danger did not exist in Jim’s day. He used to be pretty upset when his competitors were killed and by the number of race widows, although he seemed to switch that fear off in the cockpit. Also, Jim never really appeared to worry about the lack of money he was earning compared with today’s drivers. He raced for the love of the sport.

    Finally, he was essentially a gentleman, and behaving in the way some more recent drivers have would just never occur to him. He would have worried about the risk of causing fatal accidents.”

    Are there similarities between Clark and other drivers?

    “While I am sure Jim would have considered Jenson Button a worthy competitor, I doubt whether he would have felt the same about Mansell, Senna, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton. He always seemed to like Bruce McLaren and Dan Gurney, who shared his parameters.”

    He had talked about retiring young. Do you think he would have raced much longer?

    “I think he would most probably have been champion in 1968, and possibly beyond, but could well have retired then. I think he would have deemed it a good idea to retire at the top. Although he loved living on the farm, I think he would have wanted some other challenge first. He enjoyed flying and I believe he and Colin [Chapman] had been considering developing composite planes.”

    What made Clark a great driver?

    “Jim had an extraordinary natural talent, quite remarkable vision and incredibly rapid reactions. He was a brilliant shot and had played hockey and cricket for Borders teams. His ability to overcome problems with the car he was driving was legendary. To start, I had great trouble in getting him to believe in his own ability. Chatting at Goodwood after his first stint in the 1959 Tourist Trophy, he asked: ‘Why is everyone going so slowly?’ I replied: ‘It’s not that. It is that you are so quick!’ I noticed a change in him then. I think that was the first occasion when he really began to believe that perhaps he actually was that much quicker than his peers.”

    Why does Scotland produce so many race aces? 

    Alongside the likes of Flockhart, Ireland, Stewart, McRae, Cleland, Coulthard and Franchitti, Jim Clark is one of a plenitude of world- class drivers to emerge from Scotland. So why does the country punch above its weight when it comes to producing racers? We quiz two of them to find out.

    ALLAN MCNISH

    Hailing from Dumfries, McNish competed in 17 F1 races and had a successful career in endurance racing, topping the podium at Le Mans three times, including twice for Audi, for which he is now Formula E team principal.

    “I don’t believe it is just driving talent, good luck or the roads, but also inspiration, determination and support. It takes a lot of commitment just to reach an event, never mind compete, so when you get the chance, you give it your all. Sitting in the back of a van for seven hours after a kart race is a much happier ‘debrief’ if you have won a trophy, so you do everything to achieve that.

    “We also support each other: Jim supported Jackie, Jackie supported, guided and pushed me, David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti,andwetryto do the same for the next generation, be it a word in the ear of someone that matters or supporting programmes such as Scottish Motor Sports. We are proud of our heritage, but also know the future does not happen by luck.”

    GORDON SHEDDEN

    Born in Edinburgh, Shedden followed in Clark’s footsteps by winning the national touring car title, taking top BTCC honours three times. He’s now an Audi Sport driver in the new World Touring Car Cup.

    “Living in Scotland certainly has plenty of challenges. The location inevitably means that anyone who wants to succeed in motorsport either has to move down south or be prepared to cover plenty of motorway miles. Either way, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer doggedness when the cardsarestackedagainst you. Growing up in Scotland also means you can see four seasons in a day, so racing and learning in nasty conditions is part of life. It makes the nice days a breeze in comparison.”

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